Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Choosing our Paths Wisely By Jennifer Clarke
“Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood” We all know this quote from Robert Frost. I never liked this poem. I always imagined two paths: one pristinely cultivated by man, and one overgrown and unruly—wild and untamed by nature. It didn’t resonate with me. Ever. I am a literature person, and I listened to this poem, and I studied this poem, but I never chose to teach it, and now I know why.
The paths we face, as educators, as parents, as citizens in this country, are not the choices of paths followed and cultivated by man or paths uncharted. The ugly truth is, we face a path cultivated and allowed by man and one forbidden. That is the ugly truth, and that is why this poem never resonated with me. It lacked a truth I so readily saw.
I have watched the battles over Common Core, high stakes testing, privatization of education, and dismantling of public schools. I have heard how this reform is negatively impacting our kids, and I have read the research, the articles, and I have studied. I have listened to Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, President Obama, and all of the other power players, and their empty promises. I have also supported Mark Naison, and supported Diane Ravitch, and shared blogs and information from the Jersey Jazzman and Love Light and BATs, and Gopublicschools, and Lace to the Top, and every other voice trying to be heard for the actual benefit of our kids. And I am deeply saddened.
You see, these people chose the path that is not cultivated by the powers that be. But that path is not just overgrown and unruly because no one has walked the path. The truth is, there are a great number of us walking that path. It is worn, and it is full of people. But the path is blocked, and the power players have provided society with beautifully cultivated distractions to lead them to the more financially lucrative path for them. But the ills that plague education do not end at Common Core and high stakes testing. It is much, much uglier.
Our kids, our teachers are subject to abuses that should shock the national conscience. Students have been subjected to crimes that are violent and indecent, and these crimes are routinely covered up by administrators and community leaders in attempts to avoid scandals. Teachers who have spoken up to protect these students are alienated, isolated, ostracized, and terminated. Teachers have been victims of abuses and suffered the same fate. Silence is the order of the day. This culture of crime is pervasive in our nation and is ratified and perpetuated by hand-holding of the powerful. Is it any surprise then, that now we face a complete and utter destruction of the very nature of education, and seem powerless to stop it?
Until the national conscience is woken up, sheds it cognitive dissonance, stands along side the teachers, students, and parents, and raises its voice loud enough so that the side of the right becomes louder than the side of the wrong, no one will see the other path. Money can make things look pretty, but so can lies. We have a responsibility to face the truth for the sake of our kids. We have a responsibility to stand with educators who stand up for our kids. We have a responsibility to make our leaders aware that we will no longer blindly follow the path they have laid. We will, in fact, follow the path they cover up, or we will make our own.
There can be more than two paths. There can be more than one right way. But we must choose to leave the wrong one.
And we must be noisy when we do it.